IASC statement: Grays trial


The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton, said:

“The desperately sad loss of the lives of 39 Vietnamese men and women who were found in a lorry in Essex in October last year illustrated the cruel and complex nature of the perilous journeys vulnerable migrants make in the search for a better life. These are people who were sold a dream of a better future, driven by a desire to provide for their families. The reality is that they end up exploited by criminals who exploit desperate people to make huge profits.

"Long and dangerous journeys make migrants extremely vulnerable and someone who may begin a journey as a smuggled migrant may become exploited at any point, especially once someone becomes trapped in debt bondage to their exploiters. It is essential that we examine the ways these organised criminal groups operate across international boundaries to inform and improve collaborative law enforcement approaches to tackle these transnational criminals. We also need to understand why so many people embark on these dangerous journeys and how to best protect those who will continue to do so.”




Notes to editors

  • Part 4 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 created the role of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. The Commissioner has a UK-wide remit to encourage good practice in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of slavery and human trafficking offences and the identification of victims.
  • The Commissioner is given an annual budget with which to appoint staff and carry out her duties. She is accountable through her strategic plan and annual reports, which the Secretary of State lays before Parliament, setting out the extent to which objectives and priorities are achieved. Her Strategic Plan 2019 – 2021 was launched in October 2019. Her Annual Report 2019 - 2020 was published in September 2020.
  • Dame Sara Thornton was appointed as the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner by the Secretary of State following consultation with the Scottish Ministers and the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland. She took up post at the beginning of May 2019 and her appointment is for three years.